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Young Dancer Dies After Eating Mislabeled Cookie

Posted in Food Allergy on February 10, 2024

A 25-year-old dancer from New York died after eating a mislabeled cookie. The cookie contained peanuts, however peanuts were not included on the label. The company has since recalled the vanilla cookies in response. Here is what we know about this Mislabeled Cookie Death:

Known Allergy

The young woman was aware of her extreme peanut allergy, having been diagnosed at 2 years old. Friends and family indicated that she was meticulous at checking labels and kept an epi pen on stand-by. The epi pen failed her in this case.

She began having an allergic reaction within a minute of taking a bite of the cookie at a social gathering in Connecticut. Her friends injected her with an epi pen, but it failed. She went into anaphylactic shock and died.

Ingredient Label Did Not Indicate Peanuts

The cookies in question did not indicate peanuts on the label or express a peanut allergen warning. This is because the cookies used to be peanut free.

The recipe was changed sometime during the Summer and the label was not changed to reflect the new ingredient.

Stew Leonard’s Says They Were Not Informed, Wholesaler Disagrees

A representative from Stew Leonard’s claims that “proper officials were not told they now contained peanuts,” stating that the supplier changed the product from soy nuts to peanuts in the recipe without notifying the chief safety officer. However, the wholesaler, Cookies United, has proof that they sent 11 Stew Leonard’s employees this information back in July notifying them of the new label change.

According to Cookies United, the packages shipped to Stew Leonard’s were labeled appropriately. The problem came when the retailer created and used an incorrect label.

Recall Announced

In response to reports of the death and information revealing the mislabeled products, Stew Leonard’s announced that the Vanilla Florentine Cookies sold in the Danbury and Newington, Connecticut stores from November 6 to December 31 were being recalled in partnerships with the FDA. About 500 packages of these holiday cookies were sold.

Shortly after, another alert was issued for the cookies, indicating they also contained another common allergen – egg.

Food Allergies Are Serious

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, up to 4 percent of adults and about 8 percent of infants and young children in the United States suffer from food allergies. Some children outgrow allergies as they get older.

Each year, about 30,000 individuals end up in the emergency room due to an allergic reaction to food. Around 150 people die from food allergies each year.

Undeclared Allergens

Navigating life with a food allergy can be a challenge. Those with food allergies and parents of children with them spend a lot of time looking at labels. This strategy only works when the labels are accurate.

In December 2023 alone there were 13 FDA recalls for undeclared ingredients that are potential allergens. There were at least 17 in January 2024.

Common Food Allergies

There are eight major foods/food groups that account for most of the food allergies in the United States. Currently there is no cure for food allergies, however there are many studies in the works to find ways to decrease sensitivity to certain food allergens.

Common food allergies include:

  • Milk (often cow’s milk)
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Crustacean shellfish (such as shrimp, lobster, or crab)
  • Tree nuts (such as walnuts and pecans)
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Soybeans

What is a Food Allergy?

A food allergy is an immune system reaction that happens in response to eating a certain food. In some cases, a small amount of the trigger food can cause serious reactions.

When you have a food allergy, your immune system interprets certain foods or substances in food as harmful to your body. In response, your immune system triggers cells to release an antibody known as immunoglobulin E (IgE). This antibody is designed to neutralize the allergy-causing food or food substance.

The next time the body encounters this food or substance, even a small amount of it, IgE antibodies sense it and signal your immune system to counteract it with a chemical called histamine. Histamine, along with other chemicals are released into the bloodstream. These chemicals are responsible for the allergy symptoms.

Symptoms may range from mild to severe or even life-threatening. In most cases, symptoms begin within a few minutes or up to two hours after eating the trigger food. Rarely, symptoms may be delayed for several hours.

Common symptoms of allergic reactions include:

  • Digestive problems (belly pain, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting)
  • Tingling or itching in the mouth
  • Hives, itching, or eczema
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue, and throat or other parts of the body.
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
  • Anaphylaxis


Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening symptom of a food allergy. It is particularly dangerous because it comes on quickly, and if counter measures are not taken immediately, symptoms can get out of hand and the person may not recover.

Signs of anaphylaxis include:

  • Constriction and tightening of the airways
  • A swollen throat or the sensation of a lump in your throat that makes it hard to breathe
  • Shock with a severe drop in blood pressure
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or loss of consciousness

Without emergency treatment, anaphylaxis can result in coma or even death. An epi-pen followed by medical care is needed.


An epi-pen is the brand name commonly associated with the auto-injectable device that delivers the drug, epinephrine.

Epinephrine works on the whole body to block the progression of the allergic response. It constricts the blood vessels, which increases blood pressure and decreases swelling. Reducing swelling allows the muscles around the airways to relax. This helps the lungs to open and allows for better breathing. It also halts the body from releasing more allergic chemicals, which stops the progression of the allergic response, allowing the body to return to normal.

Epinephrine works on the entire body. It is multi-system and multi-organ, making it the only drug recommended for anaphylaxis.

Have You Fallen Sick from an Undeclared Allergen?

Unknowingly consuming an allergen due to inaccurate packaging not only causes unnecessary harm to the individual, but also violates the FDA’s labeling requirements. If you have fallen sick from an undeclared allergen, you may be eligible for compensation.

The Lange Law Firm, PLLC is experienced at representing cases just like yours. Reach out for a free consultation at (833) 330-3663 or click here to fill out an online submission and someone from our team will get back with you soon.

By: Heather Van Tassell